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an interview with catherine odell

liz lamoreux

Stella Finding Balance . print available here

Today, I am thrilled to share an interview with artist and musician Catherine Odell. I love the way Cat looks at the world and how she is inviting us to come along with her on an adventure with her current project: writing and illustrating a children's book about Stella, an elephant who finds herself in the circus. First, a peek into Cat's creative world and how Stella came to be:

Watching this video, so many questions came up in my mind about Cat's creative process and Stella's story, and lucky for us, Cat agreed to answer a few:

Q: I love that Stella came out of a sketch you drew while in the middle of a recording studio, and I really want to know more about this. Do you often have your sketchbook with you so you can turn to it when you need to process or simply shift your energy a bit?

A: Absolutely. When there are a lot of things swimming around in my head, I pull out my sketchbook. It helps me channel the swarm and give the mess some purpose or direction. If I get an idea out of my head and onto paper, then it doesn't haunt me anymore. I can focus, sort through it, develop it. And there are other times when I turn to my sketchbook because I'm looking for something to do. I wouldn't call it boredom, but maybe just that I'm feeling stagnant or detached from my surroundings. Just by making lines and shapes, I can almost jump start my brain, spark a new idea. So it's both. Sometimes it is a shift, from stagnant to active, and others times it's about calming the storm, it's about processing. Mostly I just feel more connected to my thoughts when they are sitting there staring back at me. 

Q: Can you share a bit more about how the idea for that first sketch appeared? Was it fully formed in your mind before you started sketching?

A: That one in particular was in my mind before it hit the paper, but it was fuzzy around the edges. It's almost like seeing something that is lit from behind, and you can just barely make it out. And the closer you get, the more the figure appears and the light fades. It becomes real. This is probably my favorite sequence in drawing. Sit and think, let it take shape in your mind, and then put that on paper. But since it doesn't always happen that way, sometimes the best thing you can do is to just draw a line, and then another line...softly at first, and then see how they take shape. Stare at the page. Turn it. What do you see now? 

Thinking About the Next Step . print available here

Q: I have to admit to projecting a bit of Ellie's story as a toddler onto Stella. When I saw Stella looking at the tricycle "thinking about the next step," I couldn't help but think about how in some ways this is part of Ellie's everyday because so much is new to a two year old. But then I started thinking about how this is really true for all of us - we are always learning and trying to decide if we are going to risk taking that next step. Is Stella inspired by anyone in your life? Or maybe by your own journey?

A: I keep finding pieces of myself in this story that I didn't even recognize at first, and the more time I spend with Stella's story, the more personal it becomes. That wasn't my goal when I set out, and it still isn't, but things come out and sneak their way into the picture. Illustration is a lot like songwriting to me. No matter what my initial intentions are, it seemingly always ends up incorporating bits of my life and subconscious. Even though Stella knows failure might be inevitable, she still tries.  

Q: What's next for your journey with Stella? 

A: For this initial phase, I've allowed myself time to simply draw, without expectations. The freedom to jump around. No direction, just raw impulse. Now it's time to get down to business. I just pulled out the post-it's, so you know it's serious. Rather than keep everything locked up Willie Wonka style until the book is finished, however, I'm documenting this journey in my brand spanking new blog. I'm opening the doors to my little garage, and letting myself be accountable to strangers. Even as I sit answering this question, I'm starting to get that buzzy feeling in my arms (or is that the iced toddy?). It makes me nervous. Really!? Is this a good idea? I have no idea! And that's why I'm doing it. And maybe the process is only interesting after you see the finished work. Maybe no one cares about what's behind the scenes until they've seen the end result. I don't know. It's all an experiment, but I like to think that I will learn something simply by sharing it, that writing it down will be revealing, and that maybe I'll connect with a few kindred spirits along the way.


Learn more about Catherine and Stella by visiting www.canyoufeedthedog.com and connect with her on Twitter. You can buy original sketches and prints at her Etsy shop

[You might also recognize Cat as one half of one of my favorite groups Hello MTN (the other half is my brother Matt). So this means that when Ellie watched the video above, she squealed with delight when seeing her Aunt Catherine who not only sings her song (the song Matt and Catherine wrote for Ellie when she was born) but also draws her favorite animal. Best. aunt. ever.]